The Air Force will base a Space Fence radar site on Kwajalein Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands with initial operations capability planned for fiscal 2017.
The Fence will provide a critical Space Surveillance Network capability needed to give warfighters the ability to maintain a full and accurate orbital catalog, ensure orbital safety and perform conjunction assessments.
Air Force Space Command will award a contract to build the radar, which will be capable of detecting, tracking, identifying and characterizing space objects in low and medium earth orbits. Construction is expected to begin September 2013 and is planned to take 48 months to complete construction and testing. Read more...
The Space Fence is part of the Department of Defense's effort to better track and detect space objects which can consist of thousands of pieces of space debris as well as commercial and military satellite parts. Approximately 19,000 objects larger than 10 cm are known to exist, according to NASA. The Space Fence will replace the current VHF Air Force Space Surveillance System built in 1961.
Last month, the European Space Agency abruptly declared its Earth observation satellite, Envisat, dead. After more than 10 years of successfully monitoring the planet's natural behaviors from space, the once valuable tool is now considered junk that could endanger active space assets for as much as 150 years.
Situations like this are what has led the U.S. Air Force and partners around the globe to move forward with the construction of a system designed to closely track as many as 200,000 piece of space debris. And now, the Air Force is considering which of two contractors' proposals for a so-called "space fence" it will choose for an initial project that could be deployed by 2017.